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Disabled man, erroneously charged with pet negligence, speaks out (Includes interview)

The San Jose Mercury News and the San Mateo County Times reported last summer that the dog, a German Shepard named Elijah was found unresponsive when officers arrived on the scene. Yet, according to the motel’s maintenance man Rishi Sharma, “I saw that the dog was alive and in good condition.” Sharma told this reporter that he was the one who called 911 when he was not able to get the attention of the motel manager or of Regis in the early morning hours of June 9, 2014.

Earlier media reports said that Regis was a homeless man living at the motel on Shoreway Road. But Sharma said “Joe has been staying at the motel and pays his rent on time. This motel does not tolerate guests who do not pay.”

Regis’ landlady Maria Rutenburg confirmed he had been a tenant of her rental home “for 3 years,” she said. And that he wanted to leave while the house was being renovated at that time.

Sharma said the 50-year-old electrician/construction worker is innocent because, “he is a very good dog owner. He really cared for the dog, walked the dog and fed him.” Rutenburg also commented, “the dog was exceptionally sweet.”

Apparently, according to Sharma, one of the five officers who appeared on the scene got some ice from the motel’s ice machine and tossed it onto the dog. “I saw the ice in the back of the truck where the dog had been. I had to attend to some chores shortly after the police arrived. And when I got back, the dog was taken away.”

The San Mateo County Times reported that the dog died while in transport to a veterinarian clinic. This reporter tried reaching Capt. Patrick Halleran of the Belmont Police Station, asking for explanation or at least a copy of the initial police report. Neither Belmont Police nor Regis’ attorney would provide that information. Halleran serves as public information officer and media rep for Belmont Station.

Sharma did not speak to police. But he said that five officers appeared. “It was one of the two women police officers that tossed ice on the dog,” he said. It is not clear why five officers appeared on the scene. But Sharma did say that managers at the motel take any disturbances very seriously.

“That dog was his child,” said long-time friend Tracy Hamer. “What the earlier media reports, like the one in the San Mateo County Times and San Jose Mercury News did not say was that Elijah always slept in the truck.” So, there was no intended neglect. “In fact, said Hamer, that dog was his girlfriend’s. And, she was not able to take care of it, Joe stepped up to help. Especially, said Hamer when Elijah got sick as a puppy with Parvovirus.” “Joe nursed Elijah back to health.”

When asked if she noticed any sign of deliberate neglect or abuse, “no! She said, Elijah was well cared for. Joe walked him and fed him and loved him. Elijah was an easy-going mellow dog. He was like a lap dog, said Hamer. He loved being with Joe and Joe took him everywhere.”

Blanca Spinoza a cashier at the local supermarket in Redwood City were Regis shops said, “Joe is a really nice guy. Over the past two years he would come into the store two to three times a week to buy dog food. Joe always bought the big cans of food and talked about the dog. I always had the impression that the dog was the center of his life,” she said.

Sharma and others confirmed what Hamer had said, that Elijah was well cared for. And, as Sharma said it was routine for the dog to sleep in the truck. Only, “that morning when I saw and heard the dog in the truck, he wanted to get out.”

Regis said he forgot to leave the back window open. “I always leave that window open so Elijah could get in and out of the back of the truck. That was like a bed for him.” And, according to Regis that night, the dog wanted to stay in the back of the truck.

Regis said he had forgot about the window and that he had planned to be up early that morning for an appointment at 6: AM. But that he had over-slept, being awakened by police after 10:00 when they knocked on his door.

“Joe has been having cognitive difficulties as a result of an assault. In 2013 Joe was attacked with a hammer by his step-brother.” Dr. Christopher DeMartini, DC, DACNB said that the stepbrother was in a jealous rage and hit Regis five times over the head. “He knocked Joe briefly unconscious.” DeMartini is a Chiropractic Neurologist, at California Neurohealth,who has been providing treatments to help Regis recover from head trauma, which Demartini says caused brain injury.

Regis said that it was his dog that helped save him from the attack. “As soon as my stepbrother started to attack me, Elijah was there to defend me and managed to scare my stepbrother enough to allow me to get away, when I was able to regain some consciousness.” “My dog saved my life, said Regis.”

Elijah was an  exceptionally sweet  dog according to those who knew him. His owner  Joe Regis  Jr sa...

Elijah was an “exceptionally sweet” dog according to those who knew him. His owner, Joe Regis, Jr said that he would walk Elijah everyday. Like this park in Redwood City called Stulstaft.
Courtesy of Joe Regis, Jr.

Landlady Rutenburg also noted, “the dog saved his life from that attack. Joe would have died if it were not for the dog.”

“This is a tragedy, said Hamer and I feel bad for Joe.” “It was the ice that the police threw on Elijah that caused his death, not the confinement in the truck.” It is terrible; some pretty mean things have been said about Joe and it is just not true. I have known Joe for 25 years, he is a good friend. It is so sad to see Joe fall apart,” she said.

Regis’ attorney Joseph Della Santina said he could not speak about the case, only that earlier media reports from last summer were incorrect. “He is not homeless. The house were he had been living was renovated.” Regis is due in court this coming June 12. And, Della Santina said details he has will all be revealed later.

If called upon, DeMartini said he will give testimony about Regis’ condition. “What the media said about this is all wrong, Joe loved his dog and this has all been an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

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